GAA Football

Monaghan look to be miles short of slick and sharp Kerry

Kieran Donaghy and Mark Griffin of Kerry in action against Darren Hughes and Kieran Hughes of Monaghan during Sunday's Allianz National Football League Division One clash at St Tiernach's Park, Clones
Picture by Sportsfile

MONAGHAN’S place on the fringes of the elite is in real peril if their display in Clones on Sunday is anything to go by.

Quite aside from the fact that they now need to beat Donegal and maybe even hope other results go their way as well to stay up, they looked miles short of a sharper, slicker Kerry side. The Kingdom are bound for the semi-finals for the first time in Eamonn Fitzmaurice’s reign, and it is thanks to a brilliant start to the second-half.

The visitors would have gone in at half-time happier, level at 0-6 apiece having played against a strong wind. They had frustrated the Monaghan attack fairly well, and carried enough of a threat on the counter to suggest that it would be their day.

How comfortably so it would become wasn’t apparent, but Monaghan’s struggle to win any of their own restarts in the third quarter heaped the pressure on them. From 0-6 apiece, Malachy O’Rourke’s side found themselves 0-12 to 0-6 down within 10 minutes.

“We’re disappointed with the performance, we expected more of ourselves. It’s a sickener and we have to try and correct it for next weekend,” said the Monaghan boss.

“We felt after Cork last week, that wasn’t the way we’d been used to performing and we wanted to be a lot better today. We achieved that in the first-half, but to put in a second-half like that is very disappointing. There’s a lot of character there and we’ll bounce back.”

The wind died in a shower of rain, but such was Kerry’s control of proceedings thereafter that it’s hard to remember a single ball being kicked to Conor McManus in the second-half.

Aidan O’Mahony’s fine positional awareness as a deep-lying sweeper allowed Kerry to contain the threat inside, which began with Darren Hughes playing beside McManus.

Hughes moved out around the middle eventually, leaving McManus isolated inside. He had gone roaming himself at times in the first half, effectively so. His ability to time the looped run brought him three first half points from play, to which he added from a free.

The home side found more joy from the penetrating runs of Karl O’Connell, who kicked a rousing score to level it at 0-5 apiece. It was just reward for a fine display. By and large, the counter-attack was far too laborious from the hosts. And then on four occasions, they ended up just humping the ball into the air in the general direction of the square, giving their outnumbered men inside no chance.

The lead changed hands three times in the first half, though it wasn’t until they landed successive scores from O’Connell and McManus that Monaghan really looked to have found their feet.

That put them 0-6 to 0-5 ahead moments before the interval, although they were extremely lucky not to concede a penalty moments later when Colm Cooper looked to have been hauled to the ground when clean through.

It was one of a number of questionable decisions from David Coldrick. The Meath whistler had no impact on the result but he allowed Kieran Donaghy away twice with what looked like blatant bookable offences (as well as three other fouls), and didn’t black card Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan when he conceded a penalty.

David Moran fired over off his left foot to send the sides in tied, and the battle never recommenced from there. Paul Murphy, Cooper (two), Donaghy and impressive substitute Alan Fitzgerald (two) kicked unanswered points in the space of 11 impressive minutes to create real daylight.

With Johnny Buckley winning a mountain of loose ball on the restarts, and Donaghy and Moran dominant, Kerry’s decision to push right up on the Monaghan kickout paid dividends. That 10-minute stranglehold was enough. From there, they controlled the game.

When Darren Hughes palmed a controversial goal on 58 minutes, the winds of a comeback whispered faintly. Ryan McAnespie’s cut a hole in the Kerry defence and combined with Owen Duffy to set Hughes up with an open goal. His effort, though, seemed to hit the crossbar and come out in front of the line, but the green flag was waved to the apparent bemusement of the Kingdom defenders in attendance.

That made it 0-13 to 1-7, but Donaghy - who could well hold on to a midfield jersey for the summer at this rate - swung over a beauty before Kerry were awarded a penalty.

Rory Beggan’s attempted short kickout was snapped up by Paul Murphy and as he rounded to tap into an empty net, the Scotstown man hauled him down. No black card followed, but Moran’s emphatic low penalty was punishment enough.

“We were probably smarting a bit from the defeat in Tralee last year. I was disappointed with the players and my own performance that day, I felt we didn’t bring our ‘A’ game and Monaghan beat us comprehensively,” said Kerry boss Fitzmaurice.

“We knew coming up here the extent of the challenge, but we knew we were going well and if we kept playing the way we were, there was a big performance in us.”

Alan Fitzgerald and Barry John Keane (twice) pointed to create a 10-point margin that was only narrowed by late consolations from McAnespie and McManus. In between, Dessie Mone picked up a second yellow after tangling with Barry O’Sullivan in the goalmouth. His first was exceedingly harsh in light of what went unpunished through the game.

Monaghan have a bit to sort out between now and the visit of that most familiar foe Donegal.

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